Kurt Kane grew up outside of Chicago, and later the family moved to a town outside of Houston. As a boy, he enjoyed tennis, and after the age of 13 he played competitively. When his sister, Denise, who was four years older, began looking at colleges along the east coast, 8th grade Kurt visited West Point for the first time, and that planted a seed. Years later, he met the tennis coach, and even though he had planned on attending a civilian school and participating in ROTC, the challenge of West Point appealed to him. At the Military Academy, he did well academically, earning a spot on the Dean’s list all eight semesters, and militarily he felt his greatest learning experience was as a Beast Company Commander. He enjoyed his experiences on the tennis team, fondly recalling breaking a twenty-three year losing streak to Navy. Upon graduation, he commissioned as an Air Defense Officer, but his formative experience as a Platoon Leader was processing Cuban Refugees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for immigration into the United States. After leaving the military, he earned his MBA at the University of Texas at Austin, where he also met his wife. During an internship at Procter & Gamble, he worked in the food and beverage division, beginning a career that transitioned to companies like Molson Coors, Frito-Lay, and Pizza Hut. Eventually he transitioned to Wendy’s, and on May 8, 2019, he became the American president of Wendy’s.
In this interview, he talks about his childhood and his experiences at West Point, in the Army, and in business. He describes both challenging and rewarding moments working with Cuban Refugees. He discusses his business career, and the culture of Wendy’s remaining true to the values and beliefs of founder Dave Thomas. He reflects on marketing, social media, and “the power of the people” to effect change, including recent twitter posts by Chance the Rapper. He explains how he has applied what he learned at the Military Academy and in the Army to be successful in the business world. Finally, he explores what West Point means to him.